Seeing Past the Darkness by Rabbi Benny Berlin

The Three Weeks is a time of tragedy and introspection. We mourn the loss of the Temple and ask ourselves, “How can we help our nation rebuild the Beis HaMikdash?”

Sometimes, in order to appreciate the scope and greatness of a tragedy, it makes sense not to look with a big picture view but to look at one instance with a microscope. If we understand this small example, then we can appreciate the larger situation as well.

Kina 23 recounts a fascinating story that took place after the destruction of the Second Beis HaMikdash and after Yerushalayim fell into the hands of Romans. This elegy refers to the son and daughter of Rabbi Yishmael Kohan Gadol (the Kohen Gadol), who each independently were taken as slaves by two neighbors. One day, the master of Rabbi Yishmael Kohan Gadol’s daughter was bragging to the other slave owner about how beautiful his newly acquired female slave was. The neighbor responded that he too had taken a slave who was unusually handsome.

Together the slave masters decided to breed them in hopes of having beautiful children who could be sold at a high profit. The two slaves were placed alone in a room for the night. All night long, each of Rabbi Yishmael Kohan Gadol’s children cried, alone, in different corners of the room. Early the next morning, when dawn broke, the children recognized each other, ran to each other, embraced each other, hugged each other, and died together in each other’s arms.

This Kina is a powerful metaphor for Galut. What was happening when the son and daughter were locked in the prison cell?

Both of these people were at high spiritual levels. Yet, because of the darkness, they saw the other person as someone far beneath them.

They had to cry alone and cry separately from the horror of having to be locked in the same room with the other person. Only when the light began to filter through the window did they realize that the person they were locked up with was their own flesh and blood.

Amongst all the great horrors of galut is losing the ability to see another Jew for who they are, and realize they are different from me but they are also great. They also have Kedusha.

G-d willing, we should begin to see the light of dawn filtering into our prison windows, and we should gradually see the faces of our brothers and sister of Am Yisrael.

May we have the ability to see the greatness of every single Jew. To not cry alone. Better yet, to not cry at all but rejoice together in the building of the Third Beis HaMikdash.